This post was written by Tammy Kiter, Manuscript Reference Librarian.
This time of year has become synonymous with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As we revel in the excitement of watching our favorite characters float larger than life down Central Park West, let’s celebrate three of the key ingredients for a fantastic holiday in the Big Apple: Family, Food and Fun! Oh yeah… and history!
The image above is from a daguerreotype taken by photographer Jerry Spagnoli. Daguerreotypes are made using a very early photographic process that utilizes an iodine-sensitized silver plate and mercury vapor, which is then exposed to light. In the foreground, the New-York Historical Society stands proudly along the parade route. Just behind it is the American Museum of Natural History. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was held in 1924 and it is the second oldest Thanksgiving Day parade in the United States. It has run every year since 1924, with the exception of 1941 – 1944, when materials were needed for the war effort.
What Turkey Day dinner would be complete without, well, a turkey? This colorful advertisement from Thurber & Co. features a promotion for roast turkey. Thurber & Co. was founded by Horace K. and Francis B. Thurber in 1875. In the late 19th century, their firm was one of the largest wholesale grocery houses in the country and their corporate headquarters occupied an entire city block.
For those of us who are vegetarians, please pass the mashed potatoes! Better yet, how about a nice piece of pumpkin pie. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can attempt to make one yourself. Here is a recipe from an early 20th century recipe book kept by an unidentified home cook. No oven temperature, cooking time or detailed instructions are included with the recipe. I imagine the woman who kept this book was familiar enough with her kitchen and comfortable enough with her baking skills to make a delicious pie sans such modern necessities. One also has to assume she was able to make a pie crust from scratch (perhaps w/o the aid of a recipe), since those handy ready-made pie crusts were not available at the time.
If the thought of spending hours engrossed in food preparation does not appeal to you, why not head out to one of the countless wonderful restaurants here in the city? Let’s see what was on the menu at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel in November 1948. If you look closely, you can spot the gravy stains on the menu. The Oliver Cromwell was designed by influential architect, Emery Roth, whose outstanding designs can be seen among numerous NYC landmarks including The San Remo, The El Dorado and the Warwick Hotel. Note the powerful message of PEACE at the top of the menu, a reminder that WWII had ended just a few years earlier.
The Children’s Aid Society, founded in 1853 by Charles Loring Brace, is a charitable organization that has been providing assistance to children and families in New York for over 160 years. Throughout the seventy-five year span of the Orphan Train Movement, Children’s Aid Society, along with New York Foundling Hospital and several other orphan asylums, placed at least 200,000 children into new homes; many located out west and in the Midwest. Representing the importance of family and friends, these beautiful children at the Society’s West Side School enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner in 1915.
The first documented Thanksgiving Day football game took place in Philadelphia, PA, in 1869. In this photo, young athletes huddle together to strategize during a game. Irving Browning, the photographer, was born and raised in New York City and became an innovator in both photography and cinematography.
As you reflect upon what you’re most thankful for this holiday season, please think about those who are less fortunate. Consider donating essential items to a local food bank, winter coat collection or toy drive. Happy Thanksgiving from the New-York Historical Society!